content warning: violence, police brutality, racism
On March 8, 2019, Nzo Hodges posted a video to Facebook depicting two STM agents repeatedly and violently striking a man next to the Villa-Maria metro tracks. The two-minute video shows the man, whose identity remains unknown, being wrestled to the ground and hit with batons by the two officers. He repeatedly yells in French that “it hurts” and begs the officers to “stop hitting [him], please” as he lies on his back with his hands protecting his head. While he is in this prone position near the tracks, the officers begin hitting him again with their batons just as the train arrives. The officers’ blows push him extremely close to the train, and the man’s head is only prevented from colliding with the arriving metro due to his struggling and maneuvering around the officers’ strikes. The video ends as the man struggles to free himself and escape, leaving his jacket and backpack behind.
While the STM claims that the officers approached the man because he was bothering other passengers, witness Samantha Gold, who was riding the metro next to him, says that “nothing about his conduct or posturing on the metro drew any attention” from other passengers. She says that she first noticed him when she saw the two officers approach him “with purpose,” and then begin to question him “somewhat aggressively.” She says that she felt that the man was “unfairly targeted” and that the STM agents were “too quick to [use] violence.” Similarly, Hodges, who posted the video, says that the man “wasn’t being aggressive – they were being aggressive with him.” He says that he started recording after he saw the passenger being “abruptly thrown against the concrete wall and onto the ground.”
However, STM spokesperson Philippe Dery stated that “everything was done by the book” and that the passenger “inconvenienced other passengers” – directly contradicting both what witnesses and the video depict of the event. Dery added that “the level of force is always in relation to the level of cooperation with the person being approached,” despite the fact that the officers are shown repeatedly striking a man who is nonviolently and non threateningly lying on the ground, repeating that he is hurt, and asking not to be hit. Furthermore, despite the fact that the man’s identity is unknown, he seems to be racialized while the two officers appear to be white: this is yet another example of the larger pattern of police violently targeting people of colour.